Markey, Ayotte Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Prevent Heroin and Prescription Drug Overdoses

On Wednesday, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act, which would protect first responders, health professionals and family members who are educated in administering an opioid overdose prevention drug, such as naloxone (also known as Narcan) in an emergency situation of a drug overdose. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks. CADCA is among the organizations that endorsed the legislation.

Every day, 120 people die as a result of drug overdoses fueled by prescription painkillers. Between 2000 and 2013, the rate of death from heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled. Nationwide, drug overdoses now claim more lives than motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, the willingness of individuals to administer opioid overdose prevention drugs may be deterred by the potential for a lawsuit. And the willingness of physicians who are authorized to prescribe opioid overdose drugs to persons other than a patient also may be deterred by potential civil liability.

The Opioid Overdose Prevention Act exempts from civil liability:

• Individuals who work or volunteer at an opioid overdose program from any harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug that they provide as a part of an opioid overdose program;

• Health care professionals from any harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug that they prescribe or provide to any person provided that person receives education in the proper administration of the opioid overdose drug and steps to be taken after administration of the drug; and

• Individuals, including first responders, who administer an opioid overdose drug to a person who is or reasonably appears to have suffered an overdose provided they either are doing so pursuant to a prescription or they obtained the overdose drug from an overdose program or a healthcare professional and received education in the proper administration of the overdose drug, including steps to be taken after administration of the drug.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.